How shall we spend our time together?

Blended Learning is a different animal when it comes to instructional design. In a traditional face-to-face course, interactions take place primarily in the classroom. In the fully online course, we design for asynchronous activities. However in the case of blended delivery we must make choices – which activities will we deliver online and how will we make the best use of our face to face time.

In the current issue of Merlot.org‘s Journal of Online Teaching and Learning (JOLT), the US Army shares a case study describing a systematic process for developing training via blended learning: Selecting Delivery Systems and Media to Facilitate Blended Learning.

Decisions regarding modality and media are made primarily based on efficient use of resources. The model offers a relatively short learning curve for both faculty and students in regards to technology. Deliver the content in a media format most appropriate to the outcomes – this may mean simply recording the lectures as in “The Flipped Classroom” model, or it may podcasting – simply posting audio recordings.

Figure 3A. Flowchart depicting key questions and decisions made during Stage IIIa  of the overall BL Media Selection Process
Figure 3A. Flowchart depicting key questions and decisions made during Stage IIIa of the overall BL Media Selection Process

They have developed decision trees for each of the three stages: 1) Basic Instructional Mode Selection, 2) Primary Delivery System, Instructional Setting, and Instructional Strategies selection, and 3) Media and Communications Tools.

Although the system was developed for Army training it offers  important considerations for higher education as well. The process challenges designers to consider some important questions: do students need to participate in field exercises (this could be “lab” experiences)? Is there a need to distance synchronous communication (Skype, Elluminate, Adobe Connect)? Will students be creating/delivering presentations (individual or group) in the classroom?

Their system certainly isn’t the only model and may not be the best or most appropriate  for your course or program. However, it does provide a framework from which to begin and offers considerations important to the selection of media, asking essential questions important to the design and delivery of both online and face-to-face learning interactions.

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